tv Washington Week With Gwen Ifill PBS December 6, 2014 1:30am-2:01am PST
gwen: as protesters take to the streets, washington wrestles with injustice. the pentagon gets a new chief and congress plots a way forward. tonight on "washington week." >> no justice! >> no peace! >> don't shoot! >> i can't breathe! gwen: protests that exploded from coast to coast reached washington. >> too many americans feel deep unfairness when it comes to the gap between our professed ideals and how laws are applied on a day to day basis. >> the united states department of justice is currently conducting an independent, thorough, fair and expeditious federal civil rights investigation into each of these incidents. gwen: what do the cases of michael brown, eric garner and others tell us about criminal justice in america?
at the pentagon, the president picks a new top gun to deal with global threats. >> if confirmed in this job, i pledge to use my most candid, strategic advice. gwen: it looks like the white house may need it. because on capitol hill, republicans are spoiling for a fight. >> the president's unilateral actions to bypass congress undermine the constitution and threaten our democracy. gwen: we examine the role all three branches of government are playing at a critical time. with pete williams of nbc news. nancy youssef of mcclatchy newspapers. and ashley parker of "the new york times." >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided
by -- >> how much money do you have in your pocket right now? >> i have $40. >> $21. >> could something that small make an impact on something as big as your retirement? well, if you start putting that money toward your retirement every week and let it grow over time, for 20, 30 years, that retirement challenge might not seem so big after all. >> funding for "washington week" is also provided by the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you. once again, from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. it's been kind of hard to take it all in. the videos that show a
12-year-old being shot and a 43-year-old father being choked. the highways and streets blocked by the bodies of angry but mostly peaceful protesters. and washington looking for a way to respond. >> the decision by a grand jury not to indict in the death of eric garner is a miscarriage of justice. it's an outrage. it's a disgrace. it's a blow to our democracy. and it should shock the conscience of every single american who cares about justice and fair play. >> there was a decision that came out today by a grand jury. and it speaks to the concern on the part of too many minority communities that law enforcement is not working with them and dealing with them in a fair way. gwen: but outrage and sadness are one thing. government intervention is
another. the department of justice has said they will act. but what tools do they have, pete? >> well, they have the federal civil rights law and they will do a federal civil rights investigation here and it does seem more likely that this is more likely the eric garner case to go to a federal grand jury than the case of michael brown in missouri. and i say that for three reasons. first of all, there is the video. very powerful evidence. it's a clear record, unlike in the michael brown case where you had these widely different views of the witness statements about what actually happened. and remember, that the video evidence can be very powerful. it was pivotal in the case of the beating of rodney king in los angeles in 1991. secondly, there is the fact that there was apparent chokehold here which had been banned by the new york city plid for 21 years. and third, you look at the video. it doesn't look like he's going for the officer's gun. which may be another difference from missouri. so you have those three things. and secondly, you have the justice department applying an entirely different legal standard. in new york, the question for that grand jury was was there a violation of new york state
criminal law? and we don't know for sure. but our sense is that the prosecutor gave the grand jury two possible charges. manslaughter or negligent homicide. in the justice department, it's an entirely different standard. it's did the officer use on purpose unnecessary force? gwen: but we didn't have access to all the information from the grand jury that we got in missouri. for lots of reasons involving differing state laws. does that also affect what the justice department and what the feds are able to do? >> no. because they'll have access to all that evidence. and in fact, the federal prosecutor -- former prosecutors that i've talked to said they're glad that -- this all didn't come out in new york like it did. because they don't want their potential witnesses in the federal grand jury reading what all the other witnesses said. >> pete, i'm curious. how will this affect loretta lynch's nomination as attorney general given that she is conducting an investigation? >> right. and we have to explain that she's the u.s. attorney in brooklyn. staten island is in her jurisdiction. so she's in charge. this -- the eric garner case is
her investigation. it complicates matters. undoubtedly she will be asked about it at her confirmation hearing if it's still going on but guess what? she'll say there's a pending investigation and i can't answer and that will be it. the white house has given her a miranda warning and told her to remain silent during this whole thing. gwen: just typical for a nominee. >> right. so there's not much really she can say. >> speaking of investigations, i'm sort of curious what about the department of justice's findings in what happened in cleveland that came out? >> right. so this is the other thing that theus tess department can do. and by the way, they're doing this right now in ferguson, missouri. while they may not pursue a criminal case against officer wilson, we may see a lot more in ferguson. what they said in cleveland after a 19-month investigation is that there's a clear record of cleveland police officers using unnecessary force. hitting people with their guns. firing guns out of anger. using tasers and chemical irritants on people who were already subdued and handcuffed. and what they said is what's really very disturbing is the
officers had virtually no guidance from the policeli officials. they were sort of on their own to decide what to do. and because there was this -- this pattern here, practice, that's why the justice department and the city agreed to make changes, appoint an independent monitor to try to cure some of these problems. it won't happen overnight. partly it's a matter of training. partly a matter of money for police officers. you know, as we've seen these tight budgets over the last couple of years with cities, the first place the police department cuts back is training. gwen: and that's what mayor deblassio in new york, the first thing he said is he's going to retrain the entire force. not quite certain how you retrain the force to obey laws that according to this -- we know were broken. this banned chokehold. >> not a law but a rule. gwen: a rule. >> of the new york city plid. well -- police department. well, thousand control people. and when is force appropriate. and training counts. just think of this incident, the secret service with this intruder that got into the
white house. and this report that said one of the problems was so many of the white house people didn't have the right training. the uniformed secret service officers. gwen: go ahead. >> i was going to say, what happened to those police officers who were involved during the justice department's investigation? >> in cleveland? >> i'm sorry. in new york. >> well, right now, the justice department is doing its investigation. it's up to new york city to decide what to do with the police officer. now, they may choose to keep him around while the investigation is still pending. they may -- they may choose to try to start procedures to get him out of the force. it goes through a merit protection board and all of that. they can't just do it like that. there's a union procedure as well. >> and also, in new york, it was all videotaped, right? that's what sort of helped prompt the outrage? >> yes. >> so i'm curious, it was videotaped and it still happened and now the spt talking about how police officers should be quint with body cameras. is that an argument for them, against them? or -- >> that's an interesting
question. the officer has said i knew people were standing right videotaping. and of course there's a lot -- gwen: and the videotape he looks at the camera and waves at it. >> right. right. it's different, though, when the body camera is on the officer. it may not -- maybe the officer knew in this case and didn't -- wouldn't have done anything differently. but there have been several cases where police departments have put body cameras on their officers and they find two things. the number of citizen complaints go down and the number of verified uses of unnecessary force goes down. so there is some reason to think that body cams can be -- can make a difference. gwen: can i circle back to the loretta lynch nomination for a moment? where does that stand right now? she started doing her due diligence and shaking hands on capitol hill and are there overt criticisms of her so far? she's been involved in these cases before. >> no, there haven't. and as a matter of fact that's a good point. she was the prosecutor in one of the most notorious cases of police abuse or torture. a man named abner louima
brutalized by new york city officers. she took that investigation over. it started out as a state investigation and she took it over. gwen: ok. so we will be watching that as another shoe that could drop. when the confirmations begin. the president confirmed one of the city's worst kept secrets today. his decision to nominate ashton carter to be the fourth secretary of defense of his presidency. carter worked for the previous three as a high ranking deputy. and eight others as well. 11 secretaries of defense in all. so he's made friends along the way. and his confirmation does not seem to be in peril. >> ashley is also known by our allies and our friends around the world. having served both republican and democratic secretaries. he's respected and trusted on both sides of the aisle. he's been a close partner with our military leaders. and he's admired by civilian leaders across the department because he's a mentor to so many of them. gwen: is what happens next the real challenge? tell us a little bit about ash carter. >> well, he was trained as a
scientist, as a physicist actually. he studied at oxford, got his doctorate and a rhodes scholar and started on the path writing articles about particles and what not. and evolved into a defense expert. and has been in the pentagon for decades. he's known as a -- an acquisition guy and his focus has been on the budget and one of the biggest accomplishments he's had is really streamlining contracting at a time when it got out of control during the wars in iraq and afghanistan. gwen: but he does not have any military experience unlike -- that's what was heavily touted for chuck hakal, his predecessor because he was a vietnam war veteran. >> we saw with chuck hagel that doesn't necessarily guarantee that you have a successful long career as defense secretary. what he does have is a long, long career. he's considered a real thinker and an intellectual. and an expert on budget matters. and when you look at some of his writings that he has a real keen interest and been quite prescient on key policy issues like terrorism. >> what does ash carter have that chuck hague the didn't
have? gwen: such an impolite question. >> well -- gwen: but a real one. >> well, let start with what chuck hagel did have. a close friend of obama's and he had known him in the senate. they had worked together for years. he had served as a sergeant in the army. he was seen as someone who could perhaps help with the relationship between the -- the administration and congress. it just -- he couldn't deliver on that key part. and building that bridge and helping to deal with squesstration. so ash carter brings to the table a real intellectual approach and as i said a scientist and therefore has an eye for detail. asks touch questions and demands tough answers from his -- those under him. and i think we'll hear more outspoken cabinet secretary on these key foreign policy issues confronting the country. much more so than perhaps chuck hagel spoke during his tenure. >> i was curious on the hill you -- no one ever agrees about anything. but even before ash carter was officially announced, i heard
democrats and republican senators all singing his praises. gwen: is that confirming the leak, i think. >> and is that because he's so great or they're so happy to be rid of chuck hagel? >> i think he's been before the hill three times previously for previous jobs as he's had. so he's familiar. and what's interesting is that in his writings, he -- it has a very academic approach. there's nothing controversial. he's been vetted three times over. i think -- there's an enthusiasm for what he can bring. and frankly, it's not a job that many people wanted. so that someone with such great threct and -- intellect and a rich background in the pentagon was eager to take the job. >> why volunteer in the final two years of the administration? people took themselves out of the running. why do this? >> it's a question many are asking. not only that. when he comes in, the budget will already be decided. he faces seemingly intractable problems like iraq and afghanistan and the fight against isis, ukraine, russia.
>> in doesn't sound like why he took it, though. >> no. he was up for the position when hagel was named. and he has been enthusiastic about the job for some time. he's a real technocrat in the best sense of the word in that he has a real enthusiasm for these issues. and again, understands both policy and the budget. he can literally tell you how some of these systems are built. from his background as a physicist. >> let me ask you a quick question. is there a mistake to have a secretary of defense opposite of the political party of the administration that you're frozen out? with hagel, i mean. >> no, that wasn't the criticism. remember, bob gates was a republican and seemed quite successful that it was about personality and approach and his ability to work within the white house's national security appear ratus. gwen: let's talk about that. you said that they were close friends. i don't know if -- if senator hagel, they were close friends in a senatorial way. >> exactly. gwen: do we know about this relationship this new nominee has with this white house? since so much discussion around
hagel's exit had to do with whether he was frozen out? >> well, it's interesting. because he was deputy secretary of defense. up until just a few years ago. and so there's no indication that he ever had any great insight or was in the loop if you will during that time. for example, when the united states decided not to strike syria after there was evidence of chemical weapons used last year, ash carter was just as surprised as everybody else. so there's to indicate that he's in the loop. but as he was walking out today, he hugged susan rice, national security advisor trying to signal that there was camaraderie between the national security -- gwen: nothing like a hug. > whether it man itself into a clearer poll -- it manifests itself into a clearer policy we'll see. gwen: and we learned in afghanistan, that isilisis is one of the looming ungovernable threats and what's happening with iran. and i wonder, of all these things, and sequestration and budgets, of all these things that are on his plate that i'm
sure he's happily embracing, what happens first? what takes priority? >> well, the problem is that there -- there's not that option and luxury of having a priority. the sequestration at a time when the united states is arguably ramping up its efforts to confront isis, so a shrinking budget and a bigger military presence. gwen: i broke my own rule and used the word "sequestration." but maybe it's repairing myself to talk about capitol hill. congress came back to town with a few scores to settle this week. among them, letting president know who's boss when it comes to use of his executive authority. >> we don't believe that the president has the authority to do what he did. this is a serious breach of our constitution. it's a serious threat to our system of government. and frankly, we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly. but that's why we're continuing to talk to our members. >> there's still plenty of time to do it.
as the executive action takes effect. we're not giving up hope for the comprehensive immigration reform. the president's actions will be, legislation would be better. >> philosophical difference, you look at the way the president mass reacted to what could only be described as a butt kicking election, by any objective standard, the president got crushed in this election. so i've been perplexed by the reaction since the election and sort of in your face dramatic move to the left. gwen: you don't get to hear mitch mcconnell say -- >> worried about sequestration. gwen: a butt kicking. and that was just the debate about immigration. this goes deeper than that, doesn't it, ashley? >> yeah. it sure does. i mean, republicans on capitol hill are worried about his executive overreach. in every aspect of government. they felt like he overstepped his mandate on obamacare and
house republicans sued him over that. they're worried about immigration. his recent executive order. and they're worried about his authority to wage war in the middle east and they believe that he needs to come to congress to get that authority. gwen: the democrats are also kind of worried about it, too. >> well, that's what's interesting. on immigration especially, you saw -- all of the democrats voted for this immigration bill. and most of the democrats even believe in what the president did. they think it's good policy. to defer the deportations. but they disagree with the process and the way he did it. you even had some democrats saying look, we know it's frustrating. we think this needs to be handled. but it need to be handled through legislation. not through your unilateral action. >> so will there be another government shutdown? >> that is the big question on everybody -- gwen: not to put too fine of point on it. >> that is the question. you never know. you never know with the house. gwen: and where things stand in that debate. why would there be i guess? >> there would be a government shutdown because congress has to pass a must pass spending
bill by next thursday or the government shuts down. and republicans, because they're so frustrated with all of this executive overreach, but most specifically on immigration, are threatening -- they want to send a strong message to the president by maybe not funding some portions of his government that oversees immigration like the department of homeland security. and so it's a question if boehner will be -- the house speaker will be able to sort of corral his kind of raucous caucus into stepping in line and fighting for this bill. gwen: so when you say republicans -- it's -- obviously not all republicans who want to shut down the government. house speaker boehner doesn't. senate majority leader to be, mitch mcconnell doesn't. >> this time actually no -- when you ask republicans during the last shutdown, you would hear them say stuff i don't want to shut down the government. but this is such an important issue, never take any option off the table. now you're even hearing some of these hard-line conservative members saying we are not going to shut down the government. that is going to be the kiss of death. so the tone has really changed. >> so you have all these
members of the congress saying we don't like what the president's done here. what are some ways we can retaliate? well, one thing they can do is change the immigration law. and just deal with the problem head on. but do they feel trapped by that? because if they try to make the immigration law stricter, they'll lose the hispanic vote? >> well, that was actually one of the points they were trying desperately trying to make to the president before he did his executive action. they were saying give us time. because they felt hamstring with democrats controlling the senate and the house was very reluctant to send anything over to the senate because they were worried the senate would jam something back down their throats that they didn't agree with and the house feels once they have control of both chambers in the next congress that they can pass legislation of their own. and it won't be what the president necessarily wants. and it won't be what democrats necessarily want. they would start with border security. do little bills, piecemeal. but i have to say this is a group of people who couldn't even agree on a set of principles last congress. let alone a broad bill. so people are not necessarily optimistic. >> so they don't like what he did but a little envious that he did something.
gwen: exactly. especially if if t were their president it wouldn't be such a problem. but the democrats, you wrote an interesting piece this week about the democrats being unhappy about executive overreach on war pourgs. -- powers. which is something that takes back seat but there are some reliable liberals who think this is a bad idea. >> yeah, absolutely. you saw this weird sort of alliance where you had democrats who are saying the president has to come to congress to get the authority to sort of wage the campaign he's already started waging against the islamic state in the middle east. and then you had them lining up with people like senator rand paul on the republican side. so it's a weird thing where you have senator rand paul and senator tim kaine, democrat, arguing for the same thing. gwen: we were just talking earlier in the program with pete and with nancy about two pending nominations. cabinet nominations. which are coming to the senate for approval. and that would of course be loretta lynch for attorney general and ashton carter for department of defense.
so it seems that there's leverage to be had, it's with the president's nominees. is there any murmuring about that? >> oh, there is more than murmuring. you had ted cruz coming out and saying that loretta lynch's nomination should be basically she should be grilled over immigration policy. so you were saying that one issue is going to be her handling this investigation into eric garner in new york. the bigger issue still, while that will be an issue, is going to be how she views what the president did on immigration. and then ted cruz the other day at a rally also said one of our points of leverage is we should hold up every single one of the president's nominees, every single one, ambassadors, everything, that is not directly tied to national security. so they absolutely think that's a point of leverage. gwen: and there was even discussion this week about not issuing the formal invitation to the president to come to deliver the state of the union speech. which i'm sure he would have been heartbroken not to have to do. but that's -- ok. thank you, everybody. and welcome to "washington week," ashley. >> thank you. gwen: we have to leave early so
you can take advantage to support your local station which in turn supports us and there may even be a tote bag in it for you. but as always, the conversation continues online. the "washington week" webcast extra streams live at 8:30 p.m. eastern and you can find it all week long at pbs.org/washingtonweek. where among other things we'll talk about how the supreme court weighed in on job protection for pregnant workers and on online threats. keep up with developments with me and judy woodruff on "the pbs newshour" and we'll see you right here next week on "washington week." good night. >> corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- prudential. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation,
>> next on kqed newsroom. >> we want justice! >> mounting tensions across the country and in the bay area as protests continue over racially charged cases in ferguson and new york. hundreds of san jose's homeless evicted from one of the largest encampments in the country. plus diversifying high tech. empowering girls of color to embrace science and technology. so it's important for girls to have a skill set to go into the industry to change their lives by utilizing text.